The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which consists of two distinct parts, the conversion of a classical 19th century brick structure – The Magazine – and a new 21st century structure, is the synthesis of old and new created by Zaha Hadid Architects. The Magazine was designed as a Gunpowder Store in 1805 and the building continued to be in military use until 1963. Since then Royal Parks used it for storage. The Magazine remained underutilized until 2013 when the Serpentine Sackler Gallery was opened.

Since the new addition the Serpentine Gallery became our number one Hyde Park destination not only for thought-provoking art exhibitions, entertaining installations and invigorating educational programs, but also for some delicious food. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery boasts a light, airy and very inviting restaurant, The Magazine, run by a very creative chef with a serious international culinary background. Museeum interviewed Emmanuel Eger and found out what challenges he encountered setting up a restaurant in such a unique London location.

Before the Serpentine you worked in some great restaurants but never any attached to art spaces. Are there any differences? Were there any challenging moments making this transition?

Working in an open kitchen in an art gallery is certainly varied. There are very many correlations between art and food. People have definite opinions on both subjects and this makes life interesting. Our customer is diverse and their needs vary based on the day of the week and time of the day. Mostly we try to let the ingredients speak for themselves and trust our guests enjoy our style of cooking. So far we've been lucky in that respect.

What’s your general impression about museum restaurants today? Would you say they are now trying to attract more foodies and sophisticated diners rather than causal museum goers?

I embrace how British cultural institutions offer free admission. This inclusiveness ensures that all guests are welcome from students to families, business people to tourists. This is reflected in our menus, ensuring we are not your average gallery café. We want our guests to leave with an enriched all round experience through art and food.

©Daniel Lane
©Daniel Lane

We see many artists today using food and cooking processes for their performances. How do you feel about the relationship between food and art?

Everybody needs/ likes to eat and food is the perfect medium to invoke thought and provoke response. In this way food and art go hand in hand.

How, if it at all, does art and the exhibitions at the Serpentine inspire your cooking?

I enjoy visiting galleries in London, Germany and across the world, therefore I cannot say my cooking is inspired by any one exhibition in particular. Cooking is an equally creative process and we enjoy experimenting with new flavors daily.

Did you have any brainstorming with Zaha Hadid Architects or the Serpentine team on what the food should be like at the Magazine?

Our restaurant crockery, utensils and glassware were selected in partnership with Zaha Hadid Architects and the Serpentine Gallery. We choose menus based on our customers' needs and reaction to certain dishes and flavor combinations. We like to preview our new menus with our gallery partners and enjoy receiving their feedback. This ensures the partnership works effectively and everyone is happy.

The Magazine is often a place for the Serpentine's parties and openings. Have you met any artists you enjoyed interacting with?

Yes we've had the good fortune to interact with some key players in the art world and indeed the artists themselves. I very much enjoy meeting them and admire how low key they are, it's refreshing. Kofler & Kompanie also caters for cultural institutions across Germany and we collaborate regularly with artists and Michelin star and rising star chefs for Pret A Diner. In this way I've been fortunate to work with some very talented people over the last few years.

Have there been any special food requests by artists that surprised you?

Nothing too crazy, as mentioned artists tend to be low key and most people enjoy good food so we get on well!

As I'm half French, I would have chose a French impressionist like Claude Monet. The dish would be French inspired and therefore I would make a Barbary duck with purple curry and mango.

If you could create a menu for your favorite artist, who would it be and what would it include?

As I'm half French, I would have chose a French impressionist like Claude Monet. The dish would be French inspired and therefore I would make a Barbary duck with purple curry and mango.

Other than the Serpentine, what’s your favorite museum or museum restaurant?

I like what they've done with Monsieur Bleu at Palais de Tokyo's new wing in Paris and Rijks at the Rijksmuseum. Both venues have been prepared to take some risks with their food offer and so far to great success.